Magic number

Tests show vehicles with pedestrian safety features are largely ineffective

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Artificial intelligence is on the rise in newer cars to improve vehicle safety. For instance, vehicle blind spot detection was once a revolutionary concept, aiding in safer lane changes, merges, and turns because an automated warning system could tell a driver that a large object, such as another vehicle, was in their blind spot. 

As technology has advanced, the types of safety features have improved as well. Now, it is not uncommon to find cars that have “lane assist” that will physically self-correct the vehicle’s lane positioning if the driver fails to maintain lane control. Another new safety technology that is currently being tested has been designed to decrease pedestrian-related crashes and fatalities through the use of a pedestrian detection sensor.

“Enhanced safety technology can be a wonderful thing, making driving safer for other cars as well as pedestrians,” said personal injury attorney Gregory J. Bubalo of Becker Law Office. “However, drivers cannot become complacent and rely fully on safety technology to ensure safe driving.”

Sensors that detect pedestrians and deploy an emergency braking system have the potential to significantly reduce pedestrian-related crashes, especially with the development of semi-autonomous or fully self-driving cars. On average, pedestrian deaths account for 16% of traffic-related deaths per year and results in the loss of approximately 6,000 pedestrian lives. Additionally, three-quarters of pedestrian deaths occur at night, when visibility is lower. Thus, creating a safety system that can reduce these numbers and make the streets safer for pedestrians would be a significant advancement for vehicle and traffic safety.

However, this pedestrian detection technology can only decrease pedestrian accidents when it works. AAA released new research that shows these sensors do not work consistently, and that they were ineffective at night. AAA’s testing further revealed that in simulated real-world scenarios, this technology failed, and the vehicle crashed into the pedestrian almost every single time. This particular technology may not be ready yet, but it certainly has the potential to significantly reduce pedestrian fatalities.

Regardless of how advanced safety technology becomes in vehicles, the driver of that vehicle is ultimately responsible for driving safely and avoiding safety hazards or causing accidents. Even if a car is equipped with advanced safety features, the driver is likely to be ultimately responsible for any injury or damage that vehicle causes.

Kobach loses voter suppression case

@DonJohnstonLC : politico: What is Kris Kobach up to? https://t.co/j1iuIWTC9J https://t.co/NvOvMY7QIB

The weasel goes down! The judge also ordered him to take 6 additional continuing education hours on the rules of evidence and procedure:

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Kansas’ proof of citizenship voter registration requirement was a violation of the Constitution as well as the National Voter Registration Act.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson had in previous orders temporarily blocked the requirement, which was championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Robinson on Monday handed down her final decision on the case, which went to trial earlier this year.

Her 100-plus page opinion also knocked Kobach, who defended the law himself in court, for his “history of non-compliance with this Court’s orders,” and imposed “sanctions responsive to Defendant’s repeated and flagrant violations of discovery and disclosure rules.”

Republicans like hacked elections. It’s how they win!

Computer scientist Barbara Simons is very worried about how easy it is to hack our elections:

Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election have reversed Simons’s fortunes. According to the Department of Homeland Security, those efforts included attempts to meddle with the electoral process in 21 states. At the same time, a series of highly publicized hacks — at Sony, Equifax, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — has driven home the reality that very few computerized systems are truly secure.

State officials now return Simons’s calls. Like many of her former adversaries, the League of Women Voters no longer insists on paperless voting. In September, after years of effort by Simons and the nonprofit she helps run, Verified Voting, Virginia abandoned the practice. I asked Simons how it felt to be vindicated. “It sucks,” she said. “I would much rather have been wrong.”

Evidence has yet to emerge that Russia successfully manipulated voting systems in 2016, and most of Russia’s probing appears to have been aimed at databases of registered voters, not the machines that record votes. But Simons believes that the failure to heed her warnings has left states in grave danger, with too many potential weak points to shore up before hackers do succeed in altering an outcome. It is not a theoretical vulnerability, Simons told me. “Our democracy is in peril. We are wide open to attack.”

“It’s not that I don’t like computing or I don’t like computers. I mean, I am a computer scientist,” she said. “Many of the leading opponents of paperless voting machines were, and still are, computer scientists, because we understand the vulnerability of voting equipment in a way most election officials don’t. The problem with cybersecurity is that you have to protect against everything, but your opponent only has to find one vulnerability.”

Why we average polls

September 19, 2016 - Ames, IA.

Here’s the NYT pollster, who gave the same set of data to four different pollsters. Guess what happened?

Well, well, well. Look at that. A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews.

Their answers shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication of what they would have found if they had conducted their own survey. They all would have designed the survey at least a little differently – some almost entirely differently.

But their answers illustrate just a few of the different ways that pollsters can handle the same data – and how those choices can affect the result.

So what’s going on? The pollsters made different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters. The result was four different electorates, and four different results.

I remember trying to explain polling variables to C&L readers, and got raked over the coals by people calling me a shill because I said polls showed Hillary winning.

If you’re not paranoid

Tin Foil Hat

You’re crazy.

Adultery, divorce. I saw a pattern here, one that I found especially unwelcome because at the time I was recently engaged. Evidently, some callous algorithm was betting against my pending marriage and offering me an early exit. Had merely typing seduction into a search engine marked me as a rascal? Or was the formula more sophisticated? Could it be that my online choices in recent weeks—the travel guide to Berlin that I’d perused, the Porsche convertible I’d priced, the old girlfriend to whom I’d sent a virtual birthday card—indicated longings and frustrations that I was too deep in denial to acknowledge? When I later read that Facebook, through clever computerized detective work, could tell when two of its users were falling in love, I wondered whether Google might have similar powers. It struck me that the search engine might know more about my unconscious than I do—a possibility that would put it in a position not only to predict my behavior, but to manipulate it. Lose your privacy, lose your free will—a chilling thought.

Around the same time, I looked into changing my car-insurance policy. I learned that Progressive offered discounts to some drivers who agreed to fit their cars with a tracking device called Snapshot. That people ever took this deal astonished me. Time alone in my car, unobserved and unmolested, was sacred to me, an act of self-communion, and spoiling it for money felt heretical. I shared this opinion with a friend. “I don’t quite see the problem,” he replied. “Is there something you do in your car that you’re not proud of? Frankly, you sound a little paranoid.”